Ornamental grasses are grasses left to grow in their natural state for their beauty, not mowed like a typical lawn. Below, you’ll learn some helpful techniques for cutting small and large ornamental grasses. Let’s begin with the small grasses.
To cut small ornamental grasses, you need only a bungee cord, a pair of hand pruners, a corded hedge trimmer (for beginners), and an extension cord. A two-foot-long bungee cord is perfect for small ornamental grasses.
Use these hand pruners to clean up whatever the hedge trimmer can’t cut.
For beginners, using a corded hedge trimmer to cut grasses will make the task much easier.
If you decide to use an electric hedge trimmer, you’ll need a reliable outdoor extension cord. I suggest using a GFCI-protected extension cord like the one reflected in the image below due to the wet soil in the garden.
So, to recap on how to cut small grasses, again, use the bungee cord, and wrap the ornament grass in the lower area; then, you can pull it up to see what you’re doing. And then start cutting three inches above ground level. Again, you can use a pair of hand pruners or an electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer.
Below, let’s look into how you can cut large ornamental grasses with a few straightforward steps.
How Do You Cut Large Ornamental Grasses?
Cutting large ornamental grasses by yourself can be a challenge Below, you’ll see the simple method, and the only three things you’ll need to cut large ornamental grasses yourself are a long stick or broom, two to three nylon strings, and a corded or gas-powered hedge trimmer.
When cutting large ornamental grasses, always use the multiple bundle method.
Using a stick or broom will allow you to run the string through the middle of the large ornamental grass. You can set up as many bundles as you need depending on how large the ornamental grass is, and you may need more than one string.
First, tie the string to the end of the stick or broom. Make the first bundle by inserting the stick or broom with the string attached through the grass and tying it as tightly as possible.
This is the part that gets a little tricky; when you do this by yourself, you have to tie the string tight and bring it to stay tight. You can use your foot to do that, and it works but is a little tricky, and most importantly, it’s a more straightforward method.
And for cutting a large ornamental grass, a gas-powered or electric hedge trimmer is best.
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Should You Cut Ornamental Grasses?
A quick answer is that if the ornamental grasses are deciduous and turn brown in winter, then you can cut them back. It would be best if you cut the gasses when you start to see that little green regrowth in the spring, and also, the temperature will play a role in the timing of regrowth.
For evergreen ornamental grasses, all that needs to be done is trim off the top of whatever was damaged in winter; usually, an inch or two will do it.
How High Should You Cut Ornamental Grasses?
Cut three inches above the ground; the shorter you cut these old stems back, the cleaner the ornamental grass will look.
People often get confused about how high to cut them back to, but the most important thing to know is that the growth produced last year will never go back to green.
What’s going to occur is you will have new leaves coming out of the root system in the ground.
When You Should Use a Hedge Trimmer to Cut Ornamental Grasses
If you have many ornamental types of grass, you can use an electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer to cut them.
For example, if you have more than 20 ornamental grasses in your garden, this can help you save time.
When cutting ornamental grasses with a hedge trimmer, again, you are just going to use the bungee cord to hold the grass and make everything easier.
And it’s like doing a ponytail on someone, wrapping it around to make sure you have everything, and then pulling the bungee cord up a little bit so you can see what you’re doing.
You want to make sure you’re wearing suitable gloves and goggles when you’re cutting ornamental grasses.
And then, when you have all the grass hooked up, you can go through and cut it with a hedge trimmer. After trimming, you can pick up the last part with a hand pruner.
Using a hedge trimmer is an excellent technique if you have a lot of arthritis in your hands or get tired very quickly is an excellent method to use.
With many ornamental types of grass, you will have this old debris inside what you just cut.
What you can do is push it around as if you were kneading a loaf of bread and break off the old stems and rake up the old debris.
To recap, keep in mind the two main things you need to know before anything else is:
- Cutting back ornamental grasses early enough before they start growing in the spring.
- You want to cut back as much dry growth as possible for a clean look during the summer.
Do Ornamental Grasses Die in Winter?
Ornamental grasses do not die in winter but maintain their structure throughout the winter.
And that’s mostly in the case of warm-season grasses like Miscanthus nepalensis.
For example, when you are ready to cut them in the spring, the flowers will still be gorgeous.
It’s important to know that the structure of ornamental grasses keeps the winter garden exciting and provides plenty of movement and cover for birds.
How Far Apart do You Plant Ornamental Grasses?
If the ornamental grasses are six feet tall, plant them three feet apart so that they have adequate space to form an excellent hedge or drift.
But if you want to look at each ornamental grass individually, you should plant them six feet apart if they are six feet tall.
It also depends on the grass’s width; some will be very wide, and some will be tall and narrow.
Does Ornamental Grasses Need Sun?
If you have warm-season ornamental grass, it will love the sun and need six full sun hours a day.
Now, some variegated grasses will be fine with a little more shade. Generally, variegated grasses will tolerate more shade.
When Should You Divide Ornamental Grasses?
You should divide ornamental grasses in early spring after they start to grow a little bit.
Now, you can divide cool-season grasses in the fall. Still, if the winter will be very heavy, this is not recommended, and you will want to separate them in early spring.
For warm-season ornamental grasses, it is recommended to divide them right after growing, for example, in March or April.
Another way to know when it’s time to divide ornamental grasses is when you notice the doughnut-shaped growth pattern and dieback in the center.
How to Divide Ornamental Grasses: What do you really need?
Ornamental grasses are great plants for our landscape; they are relatively easy to grow, tolerate heat and drought, and have no insect problems.
Like other perennials, they start to become too large for their location as they grow and expand.
When this occurs, ornamental grasses will begin to die back in the center, so they need to be divided periodically.
As their name implies, warm-season grasses can tolerate a little more warm temperature to begin to green up.
Gardeners have different tools they like to use to divide their perennial grasses.
A sharp shovel may be an excellent way to go, but perhaps an ax would be better for some of these plants to divide.
Some of these grasses are quite tough, and so the ax technique, I think, works quite well.
Some people like to go ahead and remove all the grass and then chop it up or cut it down.
I find it easier to leave it in place and use the ax to chop and split it before removing it from the ground.
Once the grass is divided, use the shovel to remove only half of it and leave the other half on the ground.
Now, find a new spot in the landscape for the half you just removed and fill in the two divided grasses.
Go ahead and add some fresh water and settle some soil around the roots.
It’s always a good idea to go ahead and get mulch so that the grasses aren’t losing moisture to evaporation around the plant.
With your new grass in place, it is ready to grow and give you some ornamental value.
Just remember that in a few more years from now, you are probably going to need to do this process again.
Do You Need to Fertilize Ornamental Grasses?
It is not necessary to fertilize ornamental grasses once they are established.
However, when you plant them, put a couple of tablespoons of time-release fertilizer in the hole and water them very well for the first year.
That will deepen the roots and make them more tolerant of drought for subsequent years.
But if you put too much nitrogen on ornamental grasses in summer, they will tend to overgrow.